Isle of Bute……………………reprise

The legs thought it was time for a change of scenery, Renfrewshire’s back roads are a fine place to spend an hour or more toodling but I’d been thinking outside the local comfort zone. A chat with the Roddy fella reminded me that Wemyss Bay pier was out of action and the ferries were sailing from Gourock to Rothesay. A easier way for me to travel over.

I had hoped the night before to load on geocaches to my GPS but I had followed the progress of a geomagnetic storm, at 9 in the evening it was ‘raging’ at G3 (5 is the max intensity) and was planning to head out around 10ish. Twitter reports were ‘trending’ of Aurora sightings.

Just before 10, an email popped in to my inbox from fellow blogger Hugh was cycling over the Green Rd at the back of me and saw the ‘lights’.

Almost immediately, we hurried out and finally ended up above Greenock and waited for a glimpse and it finally arrived, faint at first but then the sky started dancing green to the north above Helensburgh, a green haze with the odd flare began moving, I’ve included a couple of images but I haven’t mastered the art of long exposure yet plus shaky hands, next time I’ll be ready.

Hello Bute

Hello Bute

Unfortunately Lora had work the next morning and I had this adventure planned so back home we headed.

Ah, the Island of Bute..

Most folk who visit never see past Rothesay and never realise how scenic the rest of the island is.

I read recently it is the second windiest place in the UK, read HERE .

Using the excellent Traveline Scotland app, I checked ferry times and hurriedly packed my pannier. I noticed it an excellent bus route which runs from Kilchattan Bay to Rhubodach with hourly buses (Mon-Fri daytime) to and from Ettrick Bay. Timetable HERE (2014 onwards)

Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle

There was an autumnal nip in the air as I headed westwards towards Gourock, a quick ‘hello cheerio’ to an old workmate en route and soon I had travelled the seven miles to Gourock pier and with tickets bought, the ferry was loading, I waited on the lad waving me on the car deck of the ferry. The bike parked up, I headed upstairs to the top deck to enjoy the sail. It brought back old memories of the days when steamers plied the Firth in greater numbers, days of boats such as the Duchess of Hamilton and her ilk, today it is either car ferries or the PS Waverley. The sea was still, the sky free of clouds as we left Dunoon, Cloch Light and Innellan behind before turning past Toward Light and into Rothesay Bay reminding me of a verse from ‘The Song of the Clyde’

‘Oh the river Clyde, the wonderful Clyde
The name of it thrills me and fills me with pride
And I’m satisfied whate’er may betide
The sweetest of songs is the song of the Clyde
Imagine we’ve left Craigendoran behind
And wind-happy yachts by Kilcreggan we find
At Kirn and Dunoon and Innellan we stay
Then Scotland’s Madeira that’s Rothesay, they say’

60 minutes of sitting soaking the October rays and the view, I’d braved the hard metal outside deck seats but the view compensated missing out on the soft plusher seats inside the boat, it was down to walk the bike off the boat.

Last off the boat, I cycled to the traffic lights and waited and waited..

I’m convinced traffic lights never ‘see’ any cyclists so it was a quick nip back and on to the pavement where I joined the main road and headed up the B881.

Arran view B881

Arran view B881

My route was to take me past Rothesay Castle, I had a leisurely walk round the outer fence and saw scaffolding placed all along one side, the image I took was the only area free of it and not before long, I was heading upwards on the B881 to leave the town behind and now on open countryside, the views at the top were just as stunning as I expected. I’d decided to take in some B roads I’d missed last time I was over and view the island from its high parts. Arran dominated the skyline as I dropped down, seeing Loch Ascog on my left and soon arrived at the A814 junction where soon I passed the turn off to St Blane‘s Church(worth a visit!) I rode round to the junction at the Kingarth Hotel where I turned right looking for a single track but carried on to Kilchattan Bay, just for a nostalgic look (memories of the 70s). I turned back up to the junction and headed out along the single track Bruchag Rd, mostly riding high above the shore then heading back inland to the A844. A lot of farm detritus along this road. (Polly needed a good wash down when I finally reached home)

Ettrick Bay

Ettrick Bay

Once I rejoined the main road, I resisted the temptation to turn left and cycle back the short distance to the War Memorial where the views to Arran are in my opinion the best on the island(so far), the vista opening out as you head down the road are stunning but it was a right turn today to give me a straight run back to the centre of Rothesay, I descended down past Mount Stuart before swinging off to have a quick look at old sandstone jetty at Kerrycroy.



I cycled through Ascog, Montford and Craigmore past the mix of Victorian villas and newer builds. The long cycle along the prom soon took me to my starting point where I carried on through towards Port Bannatyne, the town centre was busy as I passed through. I passed the old Pavilion which is due for an £9 million facelift. A now familiar road took me through Port Bannatyne, I noted a petanque ‘terrain’as I passed a play area as I headed out to the junction at Kames Castle and to my next destination 2 miles away at Ettrick Bay and my lunch. Note..I used the B road but there is a track which runs to the bay from the junction of the A844 and B875 which has been created on the bed of the old Rothesay and Ettrick Bay Light Railway

Fully sated with the obligatory burger and home fries, I sat outside the tea room and drank in the views, I’d recommend a visit for both food and the views. I did a reccy for a future project before leaving on what would be a roundabout way back to Rothesay and at the junction I headed right and a long steady drag for a few miles before heading north at Greenan on the B 878.

Off home

Off home

I stopped to take a photo of three Clydesdale horses in a field but they took off to the far side of the field and obviously weren’t impressed. Greenan Loch was on my left , Barone Hill on my right before a sharp right turn and drop, I got passed by a car at the bend and I wondered if I was going to pass the same car on the descent as I hurtled towards it, Miss Daisy was out for the day. This was the shortest stretch of road for the day as I soon quickly headed downhill into Rothesay town centre. 30 miles covered on a day which could be called idyllic although the wind had been breezier than expected on some stretches. A good day once again. I’ll be back sooner next time.

I purposely left out other side roads/areas I intend to go back over and explore on my next trip especially whilst the ferry is still leaving Gourock.

I’d landed in Rothesay at 11.00 (I’d left the house at 9 am) and even with an extended lunch break, I returned on the 14.50 boat and was back home around 17.00 hrs…

I thought I’d add Jack and Toms version of the above song,

I’ve received feedback on the aurora ‘chasing’,

My ‘go to’ sites and apps for this…

For the forecast and present conditions HERE HERE

I use Twitter HERE

Facebook is useful (I am not a user)

Oh and my previous blog post… HERE

My thinks once again to Wikipedia….(please support)


About gm7something

64, married, three kids......overweight, unfit, folically challenged, need I go on ?
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